A novel program used to model rocks in crushing and grinding mills is helping to improve the energy efficiency and processing capabilities of mills, and at the same time is accelerating new machine design.
The collaborative project, funded through the Centre for Sustainable Resource Processing, involves researchers from CSIRO, the Julius Kruttschnitt Mineral Research Centre (JKMRC) and the University of Cape Town.
The collaboration’s novel approach to improving comminution by modelling at a micro-level involves building a virtual comminution machine (VCM) — a computer simulation program — and draws on CSIRO’s simulation skills and JKMRC’s characterisation capabilities.
The VCM uses computational modelling inputs, including detailed ore characterisation tests with CAD (computer aided design) drawings, to predict machinery operations, such as progeny, power consumption, forces on internal components and wear rates.
Dr Paul Cleary of CSIRO Mathematical and Information Sciences says the VCM is helping the team better understand what happens inside a mill, impacting on processing, design and energy use.
He says that with comminution devices using five to 15 per cent of Australia’s energy, improving efficiency is important.
“Mills have low energy efficiencies because we don’t really know what happens inside them,” Dr Cleary says. “So, by increasing our understanding, we can improve processing and the design of crushing and grinding machinery to use energy more efficiently.
JKMRC’s Dr Rob Morrison says this insight could also accelerate new device development, by allowing prototype comminution machines to be designed and tested using the VCM.
“This has the potential to reduce development time for a new machine from the current 10 to 25 years, to just a few years; it would substantially reduce costs as well as time,” Dr Morrison says. “If we can accelerate the design of more eco-efficient equipment, it means a more sustainable future for the industry and its customers.”
Dr Cleary says the collaborative project is ongoing and, over time, the team hopes to answer a wider range of comminution questions.
This article first appeared in Process (October 2007) – a publication of CSIRO’s Minerals Resources sector.